Online Satires: Power of people to jump ahead Censorship
Posted by Nao
By Naoko Asano Enomoto
In thinking more broadly about “globalization”, it is obvious that ICTs, especially the Internet is one of the major forces to push the phenomenon forward. Yes, we can see the flood of online initiatives such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and personal TV or air stations, expressing and spreading their own thoughts and ideas to far corners of the globe. Under the name of the globalization, what can really cross the border and what cannot? When the authoritative powers such as government and global firms try to take control over internet-based activities, it is surely very powerful. Posts by Maria and Fatima thoughtfully raise this point, referring the cases of Cuba and China. In this post, I would like to turn our gaze to other perspectives: civic engagement and censorship— seen in initiatives by the people.
Voices from the ordinary people: Pakistani youth rock band sing their song
The article by Aljazeera “Pakistani political satire becomes internet sensation” reports that Pakistani youth released the song titled “Aalu Anday”(translation: Pakistani home cooking with eggs and potatoes when the meat is not available) the lyrics of which include a lot of political satire, something that has rarely been experienced in Pakistan these days. The singers of the song called themselves the ‘Beyghairat (dishonor) Brigade’; it is a pun for the existing “ghairat brigade” or moral police that has a certain power over the Pakistani society . Beyghairat Brigade uploaded their music video “Aalu Andy” on Youtube.com with tens of thousands of hits, and their video has prevailed through Pakistan with blogs, tweets, and Facebook “likes”.
Video News by Aljazeera from http://goo.gl/BExPD
This song starts with a comical expression that students are complaining about their same old lunch of eggs and potatoes, stating they want to eat meat. Then, gradually, the lyrics begin to scrutinize why the price of meat has risen, and beyond that, what is going on in the Pakistani political-economical landscape. What makes the song salient is its boundary pushing and satirical expressions. They take on taboo subjects such as Islamic fundamentalism and the Pakistani army chief in ways that have not been witnessed in recent years. Besides the lyrics, the placards appeared in the music video are satiric vehicles for their messages, Nadeem F. Paracha of Dawn.com provides brief explanations to some of the messages in the video:
- ‘Your money + My pocket = We’re still enemies’ (a taunt at Pakistan army posing to be anti-American after pocketing millions of dollars worth of aid from the US);
- ‘Mullah + Military = Ziaul Yuckee’ (the alliance between religious parties and the military that began strengthening during the dictatorship of Ziaul Haq).
Struggle between Restriction and Satire in Internet era
Satire has been one of the handful of means that marginalized people use to resist state power. Lampoons, cartoons and theater plays, which are full of crafted ways to slip through the restrictions imposed on speech, have consoled people’s feelings and uplifted their spirits. Arshad Mahmud, who joined in political satire activities in Pakistan during 1970s-1980s when official censorship was much more intense than it is today, reflects back his work as: “We would pore for hours over each line of the script to make sure we put across a point without being hit by the rules, or use words that could be interpreted in other ways than we intended them to“.
Considering the wider prevalence of the Internet across the globe, online activities such as satirical music video posts by Beyghairat Brigade’s, teets and Facebook have higher diffusing capacity than the old paper medias does. In this regard, online activities are a convenient vehicle for satire. However, means of enforcing online censorship such as filtering techniques by private companies have also progressed. Therefore, people who want to express something must be prepared to face difficulties. Salma el Daly, Egyptian video blogger, describing the freedom of speech via Internet, “You can say whatever you want, but you will pay for it.” This is also true for a member of Beyghairat Brigade, they are clearly reflecting that reality. In the very last part of the video, one of the members holds the placard, saying “If you want a bullet through my head: like the video”. Moreover, while the reporter of Aljazeera concludes his comment by saying “One thing is certain: Many people in Pakistan is listening”, Huma Yusuf of Dawn.com views the popularity of Beyghairat Brigade in a different way. It reports that Beyghairat Brigade’s song has been limited to an “internet” sensation, where the Pakistani Electric Media Regulatory Authority views little impact on most of the ordinarily Pakistani people, therefore, even as the band’s song are viral this does not mean their victory but their defeat as they are seen as “non-threatening”.
Anyhow, I personally commend Al Jazeera for reporting on the band, because at this moment, no one can foresee the effect that Beyghairat Brigade might have on Pakistani society and its future generations. Instead of discussing its immediate effect, I would like to pay attention to what the rebellion of Beyghairat Brigade shows us—relentless fighting from people despite persistent censorship in most spaces. Certainly, online censorship or filtering techniques are a tremendously strong power which regulate freedom of speech. However, as the history shows, people’s strong will, wisdom and courage mean innovative ways to re-kindle their voices and utilize new tools such as YouTube, Facebook and blogs.
Sources and Footnotes
Pakistani political satire becomes internet sensation, in Aljazeera on Dec.8, 2011
Enjoying ‘Aaloo-Andey’ with the people, in DAWN.com on Oct.11, 2011
Aaloo Andey: Satire with a bite in Pakistan, in BBC on Oct.24, 2011
Online Journalism Booms in Egypt, But Not Without Restriction, in MEDIA SHIFT, on Sept.19, 2012
A different Menu, in DAWN.com on Oct.11, 2011
Appreciating the Beyghairat Brigade in Let Us Build Pakistan on Nov.22, 2011